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Koreans In U.S. Fear Registration Confusion
From Newsday
By Bryan Virasami
December 31, 2002

It's unclear if North Korea poses a nuclear threat but the Justice Department is not taking chances with that country's citizens who visit the United States.

The special registration program that requires male visitors from such countries as Iraq and Iran to register with the Immigration and Naturalization Service also includes North Koreans.

The inclusion on Nov. 22 of the Communist state has some watchdog groups and Korean community leaders scratching their heads - and not just because North Korea allows few of its citizens to leave the country.

"There will be a lot of confusion because Koreans, many of them were born in North Korea," said Andrew Kim, president of the Korean American Association of Greater New York.

The registration rule states that visitors, including foreign students from North Korea, must register with the Immigration and Naturalization Service by Jan. 10 or risk deportation. It's part of a plan to keep tabs on visitors from so-called terrorist states.

A State Department spokesman said that during a 12-month period ending in September, just 30 North Koreans were issued student visas to study in the United States.

And the Institute of International Education, which administers the Fulbright program, said a recent survey showed only 113 North Korean students were in the U.S.

In New York, some Korean immigrants wonder if South Korean citizens who were born in the north may be delayed or be scrutinized unfairly. Potential targets include tourists, students and business travelers.

"I'm worried very much," said Nicholas Yongchan Lee, 64. "I was born in North Korea."

Lee, an American citizen who lived in South Korea before moving to New York, is a social worker at the Korean Counseling Center in Flushing and recently visited the north to see old friends.

Sin Yen Ling, an attorney with the Manhattan-based Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said the whole registration program should be abolished for its inherent unfairness.

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